Aristide partisans block Haiti's capital over election results

Posted: Monday, June 19, 2000

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Militant supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide paralyzed Haiti's capital Monday, setting a large fire outside the U.S. Embassy, burning a U.S. flag and blocking streets to demand the release of last month's election results.

Protesters stoned vehicles and set tire barricades aflame. They blocked Port-au-Prince's main arteries with hulks of vehicles, junked refrigerators and large rocks. Shops and schools stayed shut.

To the west, protesters also reportedly had paralyzed Gonaives, Haiti's third-largest city.

Outside the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, demonstrators lit a large pile of debris on fire and chanted anti-American slogans. Haitian police watched but did not intervene. The protesters then moved to the nearby United Nations Plaza, where they lowered an American flag and set it ablaze.

``The United States is a nation of thieves. It has tried to steal our votes, that's why we're burning the flag,'' one protester said.

Monday's violence was the second time in a week that Aristide supporters had shut down the capital: On Friday, they threw stones and threatened more violence if election results were not published. In an interview Monday with the private Radio Haiti Inter, Elections Council member Macajou Medard said results would be published this week.

To restore constitutional government, Haiti held elections May 21 for the lower house of Parliament and 19 of 27 Senate seats. Preliminary results showed Aristide's Lavalas Family party winning 16 Senate seats and more than 20 of 83 lower house races - a victory opposition leaders say would set Haiti on the road to a one-party state under Aristide.

The United States, United Nations and Organization of American States have challenged the vote-counting process.

Under Haitian law, candidates must win a majority to avoid a second round of voting. But officials counted the votes of only the top four contenders and not the others who ran and may have gotten a few votes.

Those missing votes created an erroneous winning percentage count, observers say, giving at least eight of 16 Senate seats to Aristide candidates who otherwise would have to face a second round.

Despite the objections, a pro-Aristide parliament should be installed by July. Aristide - who served as president from 1991-1995 - is expected to win presidential elections in November.

Haiti hasn't had a constitutional government since President Rene Preval, an Aristide ally, shut down Parliament in January 1999 to resolve an 18-month power struggle with the opposition majority party. Preval then appointed a new premier by decree.

Monday's violence came two days after Haiti's top election official fled to the United States after receiving a death threat. Leon Manus had refused to authenticate the election results.

Despite Manus' departure and the resignations of two other council members, the six remaining council members published mayoral results from eight of Haiti's nine electoral districts. The results gave Aristide candidates control of all the biggest towns and of metropolitan Port-au-Prince, where a third of the country's 8 million people live.

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